Liverpool Hope University is now the home of one of the UK’s biggest playwrighting prizes – and its first ever winner was announced at a special do this week. Rochdale stand-up comedian Katie Mulgrew took away £10,000 and the opportunity to have her work considered for production by the Royal Court.
Katie, the only woman shortlisted for the inaugural Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize, won for her play Omnibus which centres on four housemates enjoying a soap opera marathon on what they think is a typical Sunday afternoon, until an unexpected visitor arrives to give them an episode to remember.
The Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize is the UK’s second largest of its kind after the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Bruntwood Prize. Katie’s play was chosen by a team of judges including actress and director Kathy Burke, screenwriter and novelist Frank Cottrell Boyce, playwright John Godber, critic and writer Paul Allen, Liverpool Royal Court chief exec Kevin Fearon, Liverpool Hope University drama academic Dr John Bennett, and the Echo’s arts editor Catherine Jones. More than 200 scripts were received from across the country and were judged anonymously.
Katie Mulgrew describes herself as a “stand-up comedian, writer and lover of chicken kievs”. She has written and starred in two Edinburgh Fringe stand up shows, most recently Happily Ever After in 2014. Comedy runs in the family – her dad is light entertainment stalwart Jimmy Cricket. Her debut Edinburgh show – Your Dad’s Not Funny – was about her experience of growing up with a comedian for a dad, and how she found her way into the industry.
Among other commitments, Katie hosts The FunnyGirl Podcast where she discusses musicals with guest comedians such as Tim Vine, Tom Allen and Pippa Evans, and writes a blog.
She said: “When I saw the award advertised I loved the fact that it was a chance to work with the Royal Court, which is a fabulous theatre. So many great writers come from Liverpool and the North West as a whole. When I saw the list of judges, I knew I’d love my work to be judged by those people. I thought that even to get feedback would be incredible, but to win is unbelievable.
“The fact that it was judged anonymously also means a lot to me. It means that there was no positive discrimination and that everyone’s work was judged on its merits, which makes me feel amazing. I hope that this play will be a platform for my comedy writing and a chance to really break into the comedy world. It would be an absolute dream to have my play performed at the Royal Court.”
Dr John Bennett, principal lecturer in drama at Hope said: “On behalf of the university, I would like to congratulate Katie Mulgrew on winning the first Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize. Her play made me laugh out loud and is a skilful, deft combination of classic farce with contemporary urban mores; all judges agreed it was a worthy winner. I hope that this success helps Katie in her writing career and I look forward to following her progress from this point. I am sure we will be hearing more from her in the future.”
John Godber, who was also on the judging panel, said of Omnibus: “There was an honesty about it. There was a truth about the situation. In the end, there was a unanimous decision on the winner.”